More Hurricanes and Storms Could Impact Cruises

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has updated its seasonal 2023 Atlantic hurricane predictions, raising the expectation from a “near normal” season to a greater chance of an “above average” season.

This means a higher number of named storms and more official hurricanes and major hurricanes than previously predicted, which could mean more challenging conditions for cruise travel.

NOAA Increases Hurricane Season Predictions

Just prior to the official start of the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season on June 1, NOAA predicted “near normal” activity for this year, with 12-17 named storms, 5-9 official hurricanes, and just 1-4 storms expected to rise to Category 3, 4, or 5 as major storms.

On August 10, NOAA released an updated prediction forecast that raises the expectation for the overall season to “above normal” storm activity, now with 14-21 named storms, 6-11 hurricanes, and 2-5 major storms.

NOAA Hurricane Season

“The main climate factors expected to influence the 2023 Atlantic hurricane activity are the ongoing El Nino and the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, including record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Considering those factors, the updated outlook calls for more activity.”

The confidence in the updated predictions is 60%, significantly higher than the 40% confidence in the pre-season forecast.

There have already been four named storms this season – Arlene, Bret, Cindy, and Don – with one rising to hurricane strength when Don officially went above the 74 mile-per-hour threshold for Category 1 hurricane status in mid-July. The peak sustained windspeed for Hurricane Don was just 75 miles per hour (121 kilometers per hour).

NOAA Hurricane Season

Up next for 2023 storm names is Emily, followed by Franklin, Gert, Harold, and so on through the alphabet. Names are selected by the World Meteorological Organization and alternate between male and female names.

It should be noted that none of this year’s storms have so far had any impact on cruises, as they have all remained well out to sea and away from either ports of call or travel routes.

The overall predictions focus on total storms only, with no expectations about where, when, or even if such storms may make landfall.

What Does This Mean for Cruises?

Cruise lines also use different technologies, models, and predictions to plan for storms, keeping ship routes and itineraries well away from dangerous storms and rough seas.

The implementation of Starlink internet on many fleets – including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, AIDA Cruises, and more – helps keep individual ships in closer, more immediate contact with their land-based meteorological centers for continual updates and the most accurate information.

Caribbean Storm
Caribbean Storm (Photo Credit: Petr Kratochvil / Shutterstock)

When storms do threaten a cruise, there are many options a ship’s captain may take to minimize any risk. First and foremost, the safety of the ship, its passengers, and its crew is always the top priority.

Read Also: How a Hurricane Could Affect Your Cruise

To avoid a storm, cruise ships may alter their itineraries, from cancelling or changing a port of call to reversing an itinerary route or even sailing a completely different route than expected, such as turning a cruise into a western Caribbean sailing instead of an eastern Caribbean voyage.

Port times may be adjusted, and even homeport arrivals and departures may be shifted to stay away from severe weather.

Any cruise traveler with sailings during hurricane season – from June 1 through November 30 – should stay updated on weather conditions and be prepared to adjust their travel expectations if a storm does impact their cruise.

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